Biloxi — Television stations are all about selling advertising, but they also want to be involved with worthwhile endeavors for the community. WLOX-TV found the winning combination with its currently running veteran’s history project.
The project has been in progress for about a year, and to date 400 veterans have been interviewed, according to general sales manager Linda Sherman. It will continue for at least another year. The ABC affiliate’s partners in the project are Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC), Chevron Texaco Refinery and Keesler Federal Credit Union.
“We couldn’t do it without our partners,” Sherman said. “It’s been a great project. A non-traditional sale like this is more difficult to put together but is more rewarding.”
Veterans of all U.S. wars, including the Iraqi War, go to one of three MGCCC campuses to be interviewed. Sherman said WLOX has made an effort to get interviews with World War II veterans early on in the project. The station does not have enough personnel to conduct the interviews and was pleased to partner with MGCCC for the oral interviews.
The veterans receive a VHS tape of their interviews, and a copy is archived in the Library of Congress. A segment from one interview airs on the six o’clock newscast each Thursday and on Good Morning Mississippi the next morning. The sponsors get plugs at these times plus speak to clubs and go to festivals to promote the project and their businesses. They will also participate in an upcoming celebration at the D-Day Museum in New Orleans.
“It’s really a win/win project for the station and the advertisers,” said David Vincent, station manager and news manager for WLOX. “We’ve been able to take editorial content and do more with it. We’ve hit something that’s important to the community. We are saving the thoughts of veterans for years to come and preserving history.”
He said the TV station has had other campaigns to benefit communities but this one is probably the most successful from all standpoints. Some of the others were the salute to cities, Ranger Danger aimed at protecting children, and the anti-litter project.
“Television, like any other industry, likes to give back to the community, and this one has had tremendous positive feedback,” he added.
Sherman, who’s been in broadcast sales for 23 years, has seen the industry change tremendously. “Years ago, the only concern was getting the client in because time was always sold out,” she said. “Now it’s so fragmented, you better have a good product, sales and idea team.”
She says keeping a good sales team on the ground is a must. WLOX has 16 people with account lists.
“It’s a very competitive business, and we’re always looking for the next promotion,” she added. “Being a part of the community is very important, and networking really helps us.”
With households getting 45 to 60 stations now, WLOX has been able to retain 90% net weekly viewing. “That’s very good for us. We’re the strongest ABC station in the country,” Sherman said. “We have 1,100 active clients on the air at any given time during a 12-month period.”
She manages the inventory to make sure they’re right on prices, noting that broadcast sales are all about the bottom line and are bound by ratings and FCC regulations.
“We’re a small market. We deal with a lot of clients direct instead of through an ad agency,” she said. “We’re not just writing up orders. We have a creative team of six people who do nothing but make ads.”
She says dealing with those clients means relationships and servicing. Both parties must ask questions about results. “We have an extremely loyal core advertising group,” she said.
Shop South Mississippi is a promotion that’s popular with advertisers. Three eight-minute segments air at noon five days a week.
“It allows advertisers to talk about their business for eight minutes at a reasonable price,” Vincent said. “They can demonstrate their services and products.”
Interactive sales are also becoming a part of broadcast advertising. Sherman said Internet sales got off to a slow start but are going great now and have opened up more sales for the station. WLOX Cars is a way for viewers to log on to the Web site and get information about cars for sale.
Home makeovers are popular with viewers. There’s been a bedroom makeover, and the patio-garden makeover is in progress. On-air spots direct viewers to the Web site for applications. Applications can be downloaded and filled out but must be taken to sponsors’ businesses to enter.
“This is one way to use the Internet and is a whole new avenue for revenue,” she said. “It’s the wave of the future.”
WLOX is one of 15 stations owned by the Liberty Corporation of Greenville, S.C. All three major networks are represented. The stations have monthly conference calls for all managers, giving them an opportunity to share ideas.
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.